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10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder that is estimated to affect the lives of 22 million people in America. This problem occurs when a person involuntarily stops his or her breathing while asleep. Ignoring this issue can lead to a number of serious health problems. To learn more about this common disorder and what can be done to treat it, continue reading.

Three Kinds of Sleep Apnea

  1. The first kind of sleep apnea is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is the most common form of this disorder and is more likely to occur in men than in women. OSA occurs when the airways are impeded by overly relaxed muscles in the throat, leading to the chest muscles having to work harder to get the air through the blockage and into the lungs. Pauses in breathing due to OSA tend to last a few seconds, but it’s common for patients with OSA to have 30 pauses for each hour of sleep.
  2. The second kind of sleep apnea is called central sleep apnea (CSA). This doesn’t involve any physical blockage. Instead, CSA is caused by the way that the brain functions. It most commonly develops in those with brain injuries or with illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.
  3. The third kind of sleep apnea is known as mixed or complex sleep apnea. This tends to start off as OSA. However, once the obstruction is removed, the sleep apnea continues.

Sleep Apnea Causes and Risk Factors

Sleep apnea can happen to anyone, no matter what his or her age is. That being said, there are some who are more likely to develop this disorder due to their physical attributes, lifestyle choices and medical conditions. People at risk include:

  • Those who are overweight
  • Those who smoke
  • People with chronic nasal congestion
  • Patients with high blood pressure
  • Men, or women who are postmenopausal
  • Those with naturally narrow airways, adenoids or asthma

Sleep Apnea Signs and Symptoms

The exact signs and symptoms of sleep apnea depend on the type that you have. However, there are about 10 different signs that can serve as indicators that it may be time to have a conversation with your dentist about sleep apnea. If you have any of the following symptoms or a combination of them, you may have sleep apnea. It’s important to call our office for a consultation if you are concerned you have sleep apnea.

1. Excessive tiredness during the day
All of the pauses in breathing interrupt your sleep cycle and keep you from falling into REM sleep. This can lead to you feeling extremely groggy and disoriented without knowing why.

2. Snoring
This common and annoying issue is caused when the air is fighting to get through partially obstructed airways.

3. Gasping or choking yourself awake
Your brain is programmed to prod your body into breathing when you aren’t getting enough air. This leads to you gasping for air when oxygen levels get too low.

4. Episodes of breathlessness while sleeping
While you may not be aware of it, the person you sleep next to may have noticed that you have frequent pauses in between breaths whenever you are asleep.

5. Dry mouth and/or sore throat
Trying to get enough air throughout the night leads to a tendency to sleep with the mouth open. This causes an itchy, sore throat or dry mouth to occur.

6. Headaches in the morning
The combination of not getting a good night’s sleep and the dip in blood oxygen levels can cause headaches.

7. Difficulty focusing
Sleeping poorly throughout the night can cause you to be unable to focus or concentrate.

8. Decreased libido
Sleep apnea has recently been linked to a decrease in hormones such as testosterone. This can cause a change in your sex drive.

9. Changes in mood
Sleep apnea has also been linked to chemical and structural changes in the brain that can cause you to be more irritable than usual.

10. High blood pressure
High blood pressure can cause sleep apnea, as well as develop or worsen due to sleep apnea.

Why Sleep Apnea Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Did you know that patients with sleep apnea can have pauses that last 10 or more seconds between breaths? This leads to a depletion in blood oxygen levels, as well as to an increase in carbon dioxide that can be incredibly dangerous to your health. The longer the pauses are, the more damage is being done to your body.

A good night’s sleep is an important part of allowing your body to rest and repair itself. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to serious physical and mental health issues that will negatively impact your life. In addition, it can exacerbate symptoms of pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

How a Local Dentist Can Help

Before a course of treatment can be determined, you will need to have a sleep study performed. This can be done in your home or at a clinic specializing in sleep disorders. The information collected during this study will be thoroughly analyzed. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, a course of treatment will then be discussed with you.

One of the most common methods of treating this disorder is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This consists of sleeping with a machine that is hooked up to a face mask. This machine ensures that you are receiving a constant flow of oxygen, even if you still have pauses in breathing.

Another popular method of treating sleep apnea is oral appliance therapy. If you are prescribed this method, your dentist will fit you for a device, similar to a mouthguard, that you will wear to keep your airways open while you sleep. This type of treatment is less burdensome and more portable than utilizing a CPAP machine.

Receiving Help for Your Sleep Apnea

There’s no need to suffer through the day feeling exhausted, sad and sick. If you believe that you have sleep apnea, call our team of professionals today in order to receive an evaluation.

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